A four part anime mini-series based on the collection of manga books, Pet Shop of Horrors stars the mysterious, androgynous Count D who runs an equally mysterious pet shop in the heart of L.A.’s Chinatown. It goes without saying that the Count doesn’t really deal in hamsters and goldfish; every creature sold in the store comes with a strict contract and quite often a rather dark secret, introducing Leon, a detective investigating a series of unusual deaths – all of whom seem to have at one point visited this pet shop in Chinatown . Each episode focuses on a different customer of the store, looking at the events leading to them entering the shop and the consequences their pets bring upon them.
The individual stories are really interesting – cherry picked from the manga (which I have not read) they are each quite unique but always very dark, looking at deep issues in the featured characters. The imagery the creatures provide to the stories varies from unsettling to beautiful, and occasionally both at once. This, coupled with the neo-gothic design and a dreamlike haze added to many of the scenes makes this a visually powerful series. Sound design is less impressive – the 90’s drum n’ bass soundtrack attempts to be brooding and mysterious but ultimately, no matter how they may have tried to do something unusual the high-tempo drums don’t lend well to the twisted, suspenseful scenes. Plus on a personal level I found it bloody irritating.
The major downfall of the series however, is the overbearing storyline, or lack thereof; for the first few episodes the interaction between Count D & Leon is set up to be quite gripping; the makings of a cat & mouse battle of wits are planted; and it’s clear that there’s much more to learn about The Count himself. It has a slow burn feel to it, so that it’s only really by episode 3 perhaps that I started to get to know the recurring characters and everything points towards it lasting more like 12 episodes. But by the end of the fourth & final episode the loose ends aren’t even slightly tied up. If anything, the final revelation of this episode makes it even more frustrating to see the series end, as the wider implications would make a great story. I don’t know if a lack of budget forced this to be so short, but it feels more like a feature-length trailer for the manga than a standalone anime in its own right which is a great shame. If viewed purely as an anthology for the individual stories and the grotesque & wonderful images they supply however, it’s definitely worth a look. Just don’t expect the main storyline to go anywhere.